I often tell my students, "You complain that Americans talk too fast. They complain that you
talk too fast." I also find that many students, because of shyness and insecurity, talk too softly, and don't look directly
at their listeners. Some even have a habit of putting a hand up around their mouths.
I have found that a good way of working on these problems is by public speaking. I have collected
some excerpts of good rousing speeches by Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Franklin Roosevelt, and others, and I have
the students practice them at home and then read them to the class. I put them behind a lectern as far from the class
This setup encourages them to speak with more volume, to slow down, to separate words, to look at the audience,
and to add some emotion to their voices. I can remember being almost in tears when Bong Lee, speaking as MLK, said, "Free
at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we're free at last!"
They understand that speech from the podium is not the same as speech between two people, but the exercise
is like that of the batter coming to the plate swinging two or three bats, so that one bat feels light as a feather.
This exercise does help students overcome some of the common barriers to communication.